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Interview With Former U.S. President Barack Obama; Interview With Obama Foundation Leader Binette Seck; Interview With Obama Foundation Leader And It's All About You Queens Founder Hager Eissa; Interview With Obama Foundation Leader And Mo'o Strategies Owner Summer Keliipio. Aired 1- 2p ET
Aired June 23, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR from Greece. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I do believe the democracy will win if we fight for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: My exclusive interview with President Barack Obama. We explore global threats to democracy, including war in Europe and racial division in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUMMER KELIIPIO, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER AND OWNER, MO'O STRATEGIES: We're hopeful people, I think. You know, you can't be in this work and not wakeup
every day hopeful for the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- we sit down with a new generation of democratic voices, three Obama Foundation leaders, working to tackle critical challenges today.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour coming to you from the heart of Athens where democracy was born. And where I sat down
with President Barack Obama, whose post presidency is devoted to strengthening the foundations of democracy now and in the future at home
Obama previously came to Athens back in November 2016. It was barely a week after Donald Trump won the election that would succeed him. And he came to
reassure the world that the system would prevail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: As long as we retain our faith in democracy, as long as we retain our faith in the people, as long as we
don't waver from those central principles that ensure a lively open debate, then our future will be OK. Because it remains the most effective form of
government ever devised by man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, six years on, there's compelling evidence that democracies are wavering. The gap between rich and poor keeps widening fueling economic
anxiety. Authoritarianism is on the rise. Europe is at war. And the global rule of law is under threat.
Barack Obama is trying to raise the alarm, from the battlefields of Ukraine to the ballot boxes of Texas. And he is celebrating also the next
generation of democratic leaders who are learning from his foundation. And later in the program, you'll hear our conversation with them.
But first, will democracy claw its way back? I spoke exclusively with President Obama in Athens at the SNF Cultural Center, which itself is
devoted to civil society and discourse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, welcome.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about your commitment to democracy right here in Athens? You did give a speech, your last speech as president, about a week
after President Trump won, and you talked about your faith in the -- you know, the solidity of the democratic ideals. A lot has happened still since
OBAMA: That's true.
AMANPOUR: Do you still feel that way? Do you feel the democracy will win?
OBAMA: I do believe that democracy will win if we fight for it. And, you know, one of the themes of that speech, I then -- a year or so later at the
centennial of Nelson Mandela's birthday in Johannesburg, gave a speech about democracy as well and it's obviously continued to be an obsession of
mine with the foundation, democracy is not self-executing. It depends on the engagement of citizens and an active, you know, mobilization of people
around the belief, not just in any particular issue, but the belief in self-governance and rule of law and independent judiciary and a free press.
All of the civic institutions that go into making a democracy work.
And I think it is indisputable that a combination of forces had put enormous strains on democracy and that we've seen a backlash against
democratic ideals around the world. It's not unique to any one place. It's happened in Europe, it's happened in the United States, it's happened in
this part of the world, you know, around the Mediterranean, it's happening in Asia.
The reason I'm optimistic is because I believe, particularly as I meet young people around the world, there is still a fundamental belief in the
dignity and worth of individuals and their agency and determining what their lives are like, I think that's what young people want. But, you know,
our existing democratic institutions are creaky, and we're going to have to reform them.
AMANPOUR: So, let's ask about the creaky or not institutions in the United States.
AMANPOUR: The spectacle of a former president being federally indicted. How is the rest of the world, the democratic world, maybe even the non-
democratic world, meant to interpret that indictment and, indeed, the fact that a federal indictee is running -- is able to run for the highest office
in the land, maybe even the world?
OBAMA: It's less than ideal. But the fact that we have a former president who is having to answer to charges brought by prosecutors does uphold the
basic notion that nobody is above the law. And the allegations will now be sorted out through a court process and I -- I'm -- I think I'm more
concerned, one that comes to the United States, with the fact that not just one particular individual is, you know, being accused of undermining
existing laws, but that more broadly we've seen, whether it's through the gerrymandering of districts, whether it's, you know, trying to silence
critics through changes in legislative process, whether it's attempts to intimidate the press, a strand of anti-democratic sentiment that, you know,
we've seen in the United States, you know, it's something that is, right now, most prominent in the Republican Party, but I don't think it's
something that is unique to one party.
I think there is a less tolerance for ideas that don't suit us. And sort of the habits of the free and open exchange of ideas and the idea that, you
know, we all agreed to the rules of the game and even if the outcomes aren't always the ones we like, we still abide by those rules. I think
that's weakened since I left office and we're going to need to strengthen them again.
AMANPOUR: So, I do need to ask you then a follow-up on that because what happens if Donald Trump wins again? It's said that the institutional
guardrails of American democracy is strong enough to survive a one term presidency. Are they strong enough to survive if that kind of person --
personality wins again?
OBAMA: I won't speculate on the outcome of a future election. Obviously, I'm a Democrat. I've got a deep --
AMANPOUR: I mean, the institution.
OBAMA: -- interest in the outcome. But I'll make a general statement, which is, having been president of the United States, you need a president
who takes the oath of office seriously. You need a president who believes not just in the letter but in the spirit of democracy. And the central
spirit of democracy is that as president of the United States you are just one representative of the people in a series of coequal branches, there are
checks and balances to the system, you are subject to those tech checks and balances.
You cannot ignore them. You cannot make your own rules. You cannot view the Justice Department as your personal law firm. You cannot ignore norms and
guardrails that had been put in place to assure that your self-interest isn't, you know, what drives these institutions, but is rather the
interests of the American people.
And so, if you have anybody who's occupying that office, who disregards that higher purpose, then you're going to have problems. The good news is
that through the mechanism of voting, the American people are going to have the opportunity to reaffirm their belief in American democracy.
And the other thing, Christiane, you know, I do think that what happens in the United States matters around the world. And the thing sometimes I'm
asked, what surprised you about being president? And I said, you know, I knew I was going to be busy and I knew that, obviously, the United States
is an extraordinarily powerful country.
The idea of America, the idea of the possibility of a multi-racial, multi- ethnic, multi-religious large big complicated country still being able to function as a democracy, that is an important idea for the world. And when
it looks like America's democracy is teetering or breaking down then I think it emboldens those who do not believe in democracy around the world
and it worries and weakens democratic forces in other places.
AMANPOUR: So, President Biden, a man who you know extremely well, has made the defense of democracy the sort of centerpiece of his administration. It
just so happens that right now there's also not just, you know, threats to democracy by dictatorships and autocrats but also illiberal democracies as
AMANPOUR: He has called the president of China a dictator, and they're sticking with it. He is also hosting, as we speak, the prime minister of
India, Modi, who is considered autocratic or at least illiberal democrat. What is the point, I guess, or how should a president engage with those
kinds of leaders, either in the naming of them or in the dealing with them?
OBAMA: Look, it's complicated. The president of the United States has a lot of equities. And when I was president, you know, I would deal with
figures, in some cases who were allies, who -- you know, if you press me in private, you know, do they run their governments and their political
parties in ways that I would say our ideally democratic, I'd have to say no.
AMANPOUR: You want to name names?
OBAMA: No, of course not. But had to do business with them because they're important for national security reasons. There are, you know, a range of
You know, I had dealt with China to get the Paris Accords done. I dealt with Modi to get the Paris Accords done, because I think climate change is
something that transcends, you know, any particular momentary issues. It's a problem that humanity has got to deal with over the next couple of
decades in a serious way.
I do think that it is appropriate for the president of the United States, where he or she can, to uphold those principles and to challenge, whether
behind closed doors or in public, trends that are troubling. And so, I'm less concerned about labels than I am concerned about, you know, specific
practices. You know, I think it is important for the president of the United States to say that if you have Uyghurs in China who are being placed
in mass camps and "re-educated," that is a problem. That's a challenge to all of us and we have to pay attention to it.
I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India,
that's something worth mentioning because -- and by the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument
would be that, if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there's a strong possibility India at some point starts pulling
apart, and we've seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So, that would be contrary to the interests, not
just of Muslim India but also Hindu India.
So, I think it's important to be able to talk about these things honestly. You're never going to have -- things are never going to be as clean as you
would like because the world is complicated.
AMANPOUR: So, the world is complicated, as you say. President Biden is, as we all know, running for reelection.
AMANPOUR: Everybody is talking about his age. People are talking about his polls. Even, there are some challenges within the Democrats, maybe somebody
might start to -- you know, to try primary him, et cetera. But what I would like to know is, many say that his policies and his legislative and his
wins, frankly, since, you know, 2018, '20, '22 --
AMANPOUR: -- should speak for themselves. And yet, according to the Way to Win, it's a Democrat-leaning company, firm, only some 22 percent of Latino
voters, 33 percent of black voters can actually identify something that they say he's done to specifically make their lives better.
AMANPOUR: What would you say to that and would you -- how would you advise him to connect in a reelection?
OBAMA: I think that Joe Biden has done an extraordinary job, leading the country through some very difficult times. I do not think that there's
going to be any kind of serious primary challenge to Joe Biden. I think that the Democratic Party is unified.
You know, there was a lot of talk, you'll remember when he was first elected, because Bernie Sanders had run, that somehow there was this huge
split between progressive Democrats and more centrist Democrats. And the truth is, is that partly because of how Joe has governed, those divisions
have been bridge.
I think what's true in American politics generally is until you get to campaigns people aren't paying much attention. People have gone through a
difficult time because of COVID and the pandemic and lockdowns, because of inflation, primarily the result of both the war in Ukraine and rising
energy prices as well as supply chain issues.
And so, people have memories about them. OK. Eggs got more expensive and gas was more expensive. And they haven't been paying as much attention to
the fact that, for example, the African American unemployment rate is lower than it's been in decades. The campaign will allow President Biden to make
those arguments. And I think that, you know, in a media environment that's so cluttered it's very hard to breakthrough until you get to election time.
We all recall when I ran for reelection in 2012, my poll numbers weren't that great, and we ended up winning comfortably. Part of that was just we
started campaigning, and we were able to get a message out and people said, yes, you know, that policy or this policy or this thing left undone, that
irritated me a little bit. But, overall, I think he's done a good job and I think that's what they're going to conclude about Joe Biden as well.
AMANPOUR: When Russian started this illegal invasion, the second invasion of Ukraine, I believe you said that democracies -- it's a clarion call,
it's a wakeup call, democracies are getting flabby and feckless. Where does Ukraine, in your view, stand in the fight to preserve democracy?
OBAMA: I think it's vital. It's interesting, before I left office, I gave speeches, not just here in Athens, but also in Hamburg, in London, and one
of the arguments that I made is, do not take for granted the extraordinary achievement of the European Union, and the fact that a continent that was
wrecked by war and bloodshed for centuries was now as prosperous and as peaceful as any in history.
And then, now we've seen the first war on European soil in recent memory, and I think it was a wakeup call to Europe and I think it was a wakeup call
to the West, and to democracies around the world, that the old ways of thinking, might makes right, big countries can do what they want to small
countries, that, you know, people cannot independently determine their futures, that those forces have to be confronted, watching the Ukrainians
themselves with such courage and bravery fight back, I think that reminded Europe of who they were.
And I have been impressed by the degree to which in not easy circumstances, Europe has stood up, it has provided the aid that was necessary. I think
the Biden administration has very deftly managed maintaining that alliance to support Ukraine. And I believe that the stakes are high to send a
message to somebody like Putin that they are not going to just be able to willy-nilly determine the borders of other countries.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, hindsight is a great thing, 2020 vision is a great thing. But you experienced, while you were in office, Putin's first
invasion, the annexation of Crimea. And many people said, neither you nor the western allies stood up and put enough red lines around him around
AMANPOUR: So, what's your reaction to that? And I want to just add also your friend, your good friend and colleague, Angela Merkel, is under very
serious criticism right now.
AMANPOUR: I know you've just met with her recently.
AMANPOUR: Should she have leveraged, you know, Germany's economy, it's energy on the addiction to cheap energy in Russia? Was that a mistake?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think the Ukraine of that time is not the Ukraine that we're talking about today. There's a reason why there was not an armed
invasion of Crimea, because Crimea was full of a lot of Russian speakers and there was some sympathy to the view that Russia was representing its
interests, Rada (ph) at the time, the Ukrainian problem and itself still had a number of Russian sympathizers and the politics inside Ukraine were
And part of what happened was both myself, and also Merkel, who I give enormous credit for, had to pull in a lot of other Europeans kicking and
screaming to impose the sanctions that we did and to prevent Putin from continuing through the Donbas into the rest of Ukraine.
So, I actually think that, given both where Ukraine was at the time and where the European mindset was at the time, we held the line. And part of
what happened was over time, a sense of Ukrainian identity separate from Russia and a determination to push back against Russia and an ability to
prepare, both militarily and in civically, to resist Russian pressure that -- they've built up those muscles and that's part of the reason why they
were able to respond the way they did when you actually saw what was, in my view at least, an incredibly misguided, not to mention, illegal and
incredibly cruel incursion by Russian forces.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Putin should have been challenge more then?
OBAMA: I think that we challenged Putin with the tools that we had at the time given where Ukraine was at the time.
AMANPOUR: How do you think it will end?
OBAMA: I don't think any of us knows. And I think anybody who speculates, I think, would be making a lie (ph).
AMANPOUR: OK. Back to the United States and actually to the world.
AMANPOUR: You said recently in a speech that, you know, if we keep having these terrible differences that we have we will destroy each other. We have
to find a way how to live together.
AMANPOUR: I spoke to one of the Republican candidates, Former Governor Asa Hutchison of Arkansas, who said to me about various name-calling and
tribalism, he said, give the candidates a chance to talk about the issues that the Americans are concerned about. Let's use appropriate language.
Let's be clear that we have differences of policy, but that doesn't always make the person on the other side an evil person or somebody that doesn't
love our country.
AMANPOUR: Do you think the Republicans will coalesce around that kind of message?
OBAMA: No. There's no evidence that that's where their head is at right now. Now, that does not mean that that's not attainable over time. You
know, I -- look, it wasn't that long ago that I got a lot of Republican votes. It wasn't that long ago where John McCain was a Republican nominee
and actively shut down a speaker at a town hall who was saying that I was an illegal alien bent on opposing Sharia law on the United States.
And there are still a bunch of folks who are politically conservative than I am, on social issues, on economic issues, but who I consider good people,
thoughtful people who I had learned from and who I enjoy conversations with. And so, the polarizations that we have seen in our international
politics is not identical to what's happening on the ground.
But what is true is that partially because of where people are getting their information these days, the siloing of information. If you are
watching Fox News -- I've said this before, if you're watching Fox News or following some right-wing, you know, radio host or getting Facebook feeds
within that bubble, your reality is different than if you read "The New York Times" or watch your program.
And when people are getting such fundamentally different facts, or what they think to be facts, and their world views are so skewed in one
direction or another, then it's very hard for democracy to work. So, there's the reason why I have been spending a lot of time both in the
foundation and in other work talking about these problems of misinformation, not just to kind of misinformation that we see Putin
engaging in in the Ukraine situation, not just during election time, but just this constant demonization of the other side making people fearful of
each other. And unfortunately, I think that's going to be a problem that gets even more pronounced with the advent of A.I. and deep fakes and all
AMANPOUR: And we want to talk about that a lot with the leaders in the second part of this program. And I just wanted to ask you before I got to
them, finally, race.
AMANPOUR: You're the first black president. When Trump was elected, somebody who used to work for you and now, he is an analyst, Van Jones,
said, whitelash, it was the whitelash against a black presidency. Do you think the whitelash is receding? And I guess, combined with that, how do
you interpret two candidates of color, Nikki Haley, former governor South Carolina, Tim Scott, senator of South Carolina, who are saying that Obama
wants to keep essentially racists part of the equation, part of, you know, the conversation, and you have -- you don't believe that everybody has an
equal chance in the United States, no matter what their color?
OBAMA: Well, look. I won't comment on what Republican candidates say. I'm not running. So, they can find other ways to occupy their time. I think
race has always been the fault line in American life and American politics. That's not original to me and I think any observer of America would say
And by the way, that historically has not sort of been a one-sided partisan issue. My favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, you know, did an awful lot
to advance the cause of freedom. And conversely, the Democratic Party was where the Dixiecrats resisted civil rights and progress for years and
imposed Jim Crow.
So, it is something that America has had to grapple with for centuries. I think that we have made real progress. And, you know, although I was always
skeptical of my election somehow signified a post racial America, if you look at any speech I gave throughout my presidency, I was always someone
who reminded the country of the progress that was possible.
That was my brand, right, that's part of the hope and change thing. But what I've also always said about hope was it can't be blind hope. It can't
be a willful ignorance to our history. We recon with our history. That's how we then get better. That's how we perfect our union. You know, in the
same way that Germany got better when it looked squarely at what happened during World War II and came to terms with that, and that's part of why it
is a striving stable and increasingly diverse society.
And, you know, that's part of the argument that I think all of us, not just in the United States or in Europe but around the world, have to come to
terms with. Humans have a strong desire to coalesce, particularly during times of stress, around tribe, clan, race, you know, whatever our religious
preferences are. And politicians have a good way of exploiting that. And if we don't resist it, then we're going to have problems.
And by the way, it's not just that us them dynamic, it's not just around race, I would argue that in the United States, and I suspect in Europe as
well, changing gender roles have fueled at least as much of a backlash as the racial backlash, this enormous fear among men and those who like the
traditional structures and hierarchies and patriarchy, get very nervous when you have women suddenly being outspoken into thinking that they should
have the same rights and powers as men do. And when you have people of different sexual orientations saying, I'm here, I want to seat at the
table, that has been very threatening.
And there's one last ingredient that I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, because I think this is also part of our democracy. I'll talk about this a
little bit in a plenary session at this conference we are at. And I've mentioned this before, I do think there's an economic element to our
democracy that we have to pay attention to.
Our democracy is not going to be healthy with the levels of inequality that we have seen generated from the globalization, automation, the decline in
unions, obscene inequality. You think about news of the day. Generally, we're not talking about news of the day. But right now, we have 24-hour
coverage. And I understand it, of this submarine, the submersible, that tragically is, right now lost at the bottom of the sea. At the same time,
right here, in -- just off the coast of Greece, we had 700 people dead, 700 migrants who were apparently being smuggled into here, and it's made news
but it's not dominating in the same way. And I think in some ways it's indicative of the degree to which people's life chances have grown so
desperate. It's very hard to sustain a democracy when you have such a massive concentration of wealth.
And so, part of my argument has been that unless we attend to that, unless we make people feel more economically secure and we're taking more
seriously the need to create ladders of opportunity and a stronger safety net that's adapted to these new technologies and the displacements that are
taking place around the world, if we don't take care of that, that's also going to fuel the kind of mostly far-right populism but it can also
potentially come from the left that is undermining democracy because it makes people angry and resentful and scared.
AMANPOUR: And we are going to talk about that in a second part of this program with the Obama Foundation youth leaders and yourself.
OBAMA: I look forward to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And just to note, we had a conversation just before the news broke that the submersible suffered a catastrophic implosion and all the
crew had been lost.
Obama is particularly proud of the mentorship that his foundation is providing. And when three of those youth leaders joined us, we heard how
those members who are an emerging generation are engaging in the struggle for democracy at this crucial time.
Hager Eissa comes from Sudan. Her country, like Ukraine, is a fledgling democracy which is threatened by war. Hager has worked in refugee camps in
Darfur, fostering peaceful reconciliation. And she is founder of the nonprofit organization that helps women of color worldwide. Summer Keliipio
is a consultant in Hawaii, developing leadership skills to strengthen vulnerable populations. And Binette Seck is co-founder of an Ethiopian-
based tech training program which has taught thousands of people coding skills.
They have all spent this week here in Athens for the culmination of their training program, including a visit to the Home Project, which cares for
children whose lives are wrecked by war and persecution. The leaders talk to us about the moment they were selected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BINETTE SECK, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER: But I was in shock. I never had a known anyone that look like me going through this process before.
HAGER EISSA, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER AND FOUNDER, IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU QUEENS: I would love to see my community flourishing and having all the
freedom and all the human rights and the women's rights.
SUMMER KELIIPIO, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER AND OWNER, MO'O STRATEGIES: Sometimes the work that we do is really difficult and it feels quite
lonely. But in meeting them, I realize, oh, there are so many of us that go through the same journey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: These Obama Foundation graduates joined our conversation with their perspectives on how collectively to strengthen democracy by forging
solutions on threats like climate change, the A.I. upheaval and women's empowerment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: All right. Mr. President, welcome back, and leaders, Hager, Summer and Binette.
We were talking just before the break about the pervasive misogyny and frankly, physical attacks on women around the world. I just want to first
start by asking you, Mr. President, what is the effect on democracy when essentially half the globe's population is kept down and it still is?
OBAMA: Well, the -- you've answered your own question. If you've got half the population that is being suppressed, often violently, then by
definition, democracy is not functioning the way it should. And what is also true is that when women are not empowered, typically they are the ones
who are the caregivers, which means that children are not empowered. And the kinds of issues, whether health care or education, you know, kitchen
table issues, those are not being attended to.
And so, we are depriving ourselves of a set of perspectives that are vital to making democracy work. And, you know, when you look at countries that
are successful, they are countries in which women are empowered and countries that are less successful, that stagnate, that are more likely to
engage in conflict, and are more violent, are typically once in with women are suppressed.
AMANPOUR: So, there's a new report that's just come out in the last several days, the U.N. Gender Index. And it shows that some nine out of 10
people are biased against women in about 80 countries where they surveyed. About half say that men make better leaders, political leaders, men are
better business leaders. And a quarter of the respondents say that they accept men beating their wives. I mean, a quarter of the respondents.
Let me ask you, Hager, because, you know, you come from Sudan, you are living back and forth in Europe, and you've experienced war and refugee
status. Tell me how it affects you and in your community building this -- you know, oppression of women still?
HAGER EISSA, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER: Well, stepping into that and going back to how Sudan works, especially when it comes to women rights, and
Sudan has been facing this massive wave of having this kind of like explaining to women that they cannot do anything, right? Like we have
always been told that you cannot vote, who's going to take your vote. You cannot participate in anything. You are not as equal as men are.
So, having all of those challenges that are being faced by women it kind of reshaped half of the women in Sudan into not knowing what kind of leaders
they can actually be. So, the power that they actually have in them. And it take -- it took us like ages to realize that women are actually strong and
they can empower and they are the right to vote, they have the right to have a voice, and they have the right to be respected as well.
Stepping into respect, it has always been a challenge for Sudanese women to be respected, especially when it comes to being respected by men, because
for them it's always like, we are the leaders, like we rule the family. It's only us, nobody else.
And for me, especially, I have always been challenged by it. But luckily, I grew up in a family that always taught me that you have the right to do
whatever you want as long as you know what you are doing and we trust you enough.
So, as my part, I wanted to reflect that in my own way. It took me like a lot of time. I went back to Darfur. We've all heard about Darfur.
AMANPOUR: It was a scene of the genocide in the early 2000s.
EISSA: Yes, exactly.
EISSA: It was massively and so unfortunate. I went back to Darfur. I sat down with families in refugee camps in trying to explain to them the
importance of how they should actually like let their girls go to school, right? So, I was the enemy when I started talking about that. They didn't
know that I was actually trying to help.
They were like, no, you're working against culture. So, here, we see how culture is playing a main role in shaping even the community that we are
AMANPOUR: You know, we have you three women leaders here. I am sure that the Obama Foundation has some male leaders as well. But here we are, the
three women leaders. And I am glad we do, because I want to ask you about what you get from the foundation and what the foundation is designed for in
terms of, you know, getting information from each other, sharing experiences, community building.
BINETTE SECK, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER: Just to add one thing that is really key when it comes to the women right issue, it has to do with
representation. What do we see represented and -- across the board?
I think we have an issue of having female leaders that we actually can see ourselves represented in. We have a lack of committees and organizations
that are led by women. We also have an issue of networking having a space, a safe space where you can connect with other women or men even.
And one of the things that the Obama Foundation and the Obama leadership has given me as a leader is truly the networking, the role models I really
needed. Growing up in Tensta, it's one of the most vulnerable areas in Sweden. And I would sit in a bus, travel from Tensta all the way to
Shaista, which is the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Looking out the window, seeing these amazing companies, it's a tech hub, it's a tech mecca basically. And sitting in the bus, holding in my hand a
device. So, throughout my entire life, as a 14-year-old or as a 25-year- old, I've always been connected with technology in my hand. But looking out the window, I made a decision as a young girl, I will never ever get a job
And the main reason is, if you don't see yourself represented, what will you become?
SECK: So, I never saw a woman that looked like myself that was in tech.
AMANPOUR: For you, a fellow Hawaiian, climate must be a huge issue, right? And so many young people vote on climate, and that's a huge concern for
them. What do you think you all can do to move this in a way that will actually make change while governments are still unable to show the full
SUMMER KELIIPIO, OBAMA FOUNDATION LEADER AND OWNER, MO'O STRATEGIES: Such a great question. You know, for me and for all of the other Pacific Islands
that are, you know, quickly losing land mass because of climate change, it's so important, now more than ever, to be able to tell our stories and
to reach out to the people around the globe, to our new colleagues in the network and to be able to find opportunities for connecting and helping
them to understand what we're going through on a daily basis. The storms are bigger, the surges are bigger, our reefs are disappearing, the fish are
not there, people cannot survive anymore.
And so, you know, the leadership and the network provide us an opportunity to get help. And so, what we like to see in the Pacific Islands is, you
know, our islands -- it's not a sea of islands but -- not islands in the sea, but a sea of islands. And so, we want to make those connections across
the globe with everyone else.
AMANPOUR: And are you still hopeful on the climate? Because it's been said, and we sort of touched on it, that this world, in fact, the head of
the IMF told me, this -- our world has the technology, has a knowledge, has the money, has the ability. just not the will, essentially, to solve just
about every problem that we have. Are you hopeful?
KELIIPIO: Always. Always hopeful. We're hopeful people, I think. You know, you can't be in this work and not wake up every day hopeful for the future.
You find something else to do, because the problems are so hard. But we look at each other's eyes and we ask for help and we look for other
solutions. And in meeting all of the other leaders we found a family that we didn't know we were missing, because these are the folks who are going
to help to grease the wheels and to make change across sectors and across nations.
OBAMA: Well, and part of -- you know, you talk about climate change. So, some of the leaders in our network have led mass movements, you know,
including some of the big protests among young people and students in Europe.
Some are working to create a conservation corps to prevent deforestation in southeast Asia. And they are working relatively -- in relative anonymity,
village by village, trying to teach new forestry practices. Some of them are creating clean energy programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, working with
villagers to create, you know, easily solar charged batteries and to -- or to create networks that can leapfrog old dirty fuel style development and
go straight to clean energy development.
What happens is when they all talk to each other, they suddenly realize, oh, what I'm doing in Germany is connected to what I'm doing in Vietnam,
and actually, it directly connects to what, you know, is happening in Sudan. And then, even across issues, now they suddenly start talking to
somebody who is working on migrant -- the migrant crisis, and they say, oh, this displacement is in part because people can't grow food on their land
and that's causing conflict in countries that are then sending people looking for a place to survive. So, we've got to deal with that as well.
Creating those kinds of networks, exchanges of ideas, that I actually think fuels optimism. We get cynical, we despair when we feel as if we are alone.
When we're together, then suddenly we say to ourselves, oh, maybe we can figure this out.
And climate change is an example of something that, yes, it's not happening as fast as we would like but I constantly remind our young leaders that
we've actually made enormous progress. When I came in in 2008, during the financial crisis, the entire clean energy industry was about to collapse in
the United States. It is now booming. And the cost of clean energy relative to old fossil fuels has evened out because of technological progress, it's
these outstanding leaders who are going to then force us to make even faster progress and then we'll --
AMANPOUR: And have to clean up our mess, as they --
OBAMA: As usual.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Our kids are going to -- you are going to do that. And it is vital work.
Can I adjust potentially end with a good discussion on A.I.? You just did a Netflix series on work. And at one point you said, the most work that most
Americans do, essentially in service, fairly low paid, it's not so much a foothold but it's a treadmill, that they don't really have a way to get any
further. So, that's one thing.
The other thing is, A.I., and how does one convince workers, young leaders, that A.I. can help them and improve the -- you know, and enhanced their
work opportunities rather than eliminate their work? I don't know. President Biden is -- first -- well, first, let me ask you. Are you afraid
that A.I. is going to eliminate us as workers, as, you know, some people would say, as a human race?
SECK: I am afraid of the digital illiteracy, not only in Europe but all over the world, especially when we connect that to the first question that
you had concerning women and rights. There is no tech industry anymore. It's within every single industry, whether it is fashion or makeup or
production in media, it's literally everywhere.
So, if you zoom out of Sweden, we have 500,000 talents missing in the tech scene. Zoom out further on and look around the globe, there are millions.
The latest number was 20 million, but I would say there are millions of people missing in the tech industry.
Which often also refers to the need for confidence. And it's because of the rapid developments that we've seen within technology. The rapid development
of things that we don't understand makes us afraid. So, the literacy of technology is crucial. Making sure that the younger generation, the next
coming generation, understands that it's not enough to have competence, to have an education on a high level. What you need to do is continue
learning. What is A.I. today might not be A.I. tomorrow.
AMANPOUR: President Biden has been to the West Coast to talk to the A.I. leaders, to talk to them about regulation. And it seems to be commonly
agreed, I don't know whether you agree with this, that it has to be regulated. Do you believe that? And what is your worst nightmare situation
if it is not regulated A.I.?
OBAMA: This is a powerful technology and it's coming fast. And if it kind of goes into the wild, the way social media did without us thinking through
the consequences, we're going to have bigger problems with A.I., we will have bigger problems with A.I. National security problems, job displacement
problems, misinformation problems that undermine our democracy. And so, yes, we're going to have to regulate it in an intelligent way.
Now, there is enormous potential. You know, you think about the incredible work that, you know, Hager is doing to try to empower people who have very
little access to education. If harnessed correctly, you can have A.I. teachers that much more cheaply are delivering a very good education to
people in remote areas. That's a powerful thing.
And by the way, if you have villages where girls have trouble getting to school but you can get them a device and they can learn on their own, that
can break down barriers as well. So, that's the upside. The danger is that if it's weaponized, it can be a very powerful tool for mischief.
OBAMA: And so, there's an entire national security element around this. The job displacement is going to be significant. That is absolutely right,
that we need to train our young people to not just the consumers of this technology but to understand and produce and shape how this technology
works. But potential for people who are in jobs that can be done remotely to be replaced entirely by machines, I think that is something that's going
to happen fairly quickly. And that means that we've got to work more creatively around the sort of things the machines can't do.
Machines can't care for each other. Machines can't, you know, tend to somebody who is ill. They can't teach with joy a child and inspire them.
You know, and a lot of those, by the way, are traditionally women's work that is undervalued and underpaid, part of what we're going to have to do
is not just regulate the technology but also recognize that we've got reshape our society to lift up and reassess what is most valuable in the
human experience, and a lot of it is the kinds of work that women do often uncompensated but that makes us -- makes life worthwhile.
AMANPOUR: And I guess finally, because we're out of time, it's said that, you know, Greece believed -- since we're in Greece, that democracy is only
as healthy as the willingness of citizens to engage and to sacrifice, to defend the democracy and to do the work. How do you feel about that? Are
enough people of your generation willing to do that, not just, you know, go shopping and me, me, me sort of capitalism? We talked about the capitalism
and the inequality, and that's part of this as well.
EISSA: Well, I believe that's totally correct. And as also like this program kind proved to me, like how they're -- we are all together as one
community willing to actually shape even democracy. I met like a lot of amazing leaders as we're working in democracy, and I feel I was -- at some
point, feeling that I was alone, but then seeing this, it made me feel like we're all in this together.
So, this is actually what I see. And I'm really happy with the results, as this is actually being reshaped and this is -- get -- we are kind of trying
to get the work done in this. So, yes, I totally agree to that.
KELIIPIO: The slide to chaos is real, and that's a real challenge to get people organized and motivated to invest in democratic values is really
tough. And at the same time, I think what we saw during the pandemic was once it starts to hit lots and lots of people then I think everybody starts
to pay a little bit more attention. And I think, for sure, we're either at or past that breaking point. And I think more people will start to pay
attention to the need to protect, you know, a right to education, a right to prosperity and some degree of peace and security, all of those things we
need in order to survive as a people, as human people. And that will -- that, I think, will fuel motivation to make progress towards these
SECK: What I'm really looking forward to is the next coming generation that are informed, empowered, engaged. And I think one of the ways is to
build communities where you can find your safe space, you have someone to look up to where you can grow in your network, you can go past the
knowledge and build your competence in order to really believe that you're worthy of a better life.
Because once you do believe that, we have seen, in our organizations, that's when you create a better life for someone else.
OBAMA: And one last thing I'll say about young people and democracy, and I mentioned this, I think, in one of the meetings we had with the group, in
almost every country, young people vote at lower levels than older people. And it's understandable. They're worrying about careers, school, getting a
job, romance, starting families. So, there are a lot of distractions. And democracy can seem like an -- some abstraction that they don't have time to
But what I've increasingly seen is that young people recognize the existing institutions are working for them.
OBAMA: It is our job, yours, mine. I'm much older than you, Christiane, but it is our job to give the opportunity for young people, because it
turns out that when you are willing to cede some power, when you are willing to say, all right, what ideas do you have? Let's put you in charge
of this. How would you reorganize this? They will seize that opportunity.
OBAMA: And I think part of the message that we have in the foundation is it is time for us to pass that baton, to pass that torch. They're ready to
run the race, and they're already running it. Sometimes it's -- you know, old heads like me that are getting in the way. But I'm confident and
hopeful that you guys are going to clean up our mess, as you put it.
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, thank you all so much. Binette, Summer, Hager and President Obama, thank you very much for being with us.
OBAMA: Thanks so much for taking the time.
EISSA: Thank you for having us.
SECK: Thank you.
KELIIPIO: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for the special edition of our program. And if you ever missed our show, you can always find the latest episode shortly after
it airs on our podcast. Remember, you can always catch us online, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from Athens.